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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Monday, June 24, 2024
The Echo

What does accessibility look like?

Responding to another column

I am writing in regard to the opinion piece entitled, “Helping Make Campus Accessible,” timely and transparently written and published in the Oct. 22, 2022, edition of The Echo.

Accessibility is an ongoing issue on Taylor’s campus, and this article sheds light on an issue cloaked in darkness. The idea that a campus ideally filled with love and grace and mercy would not exemplify these things to those with physical or mental disabilities simply as a result of a lack of structure is deeply concerning at best.

This article addresses this concern with grace and even acknowledges the University’s

prior attempts for accommodation.

However, these attempts still may not be enough. Because there is still room to grow into the kind of community that we say we want to be.

While Taylor University may be “required to provide equal access to education for students with disabilities through accommodations according to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” the Echo reads, the terms “equal access” and “disability” are entirely too broad.

What does equal access look like on a realistic, logistical level?

Even if a classroom is big enough to accommodate a student with a wheelchair, what desk options are presented for these students? Can it accommodate two wheelchairs?

If a student is able to live on the first floor but can never attend events on other floors because of a lack of viable transportation options, is this equal access?

If a student has learning impairments, are there enough teachers with training in those areas to actually accommodate and teach him or her well?

According to the ADA of 1990, these should all be considerations of the institution,

which applies to both public and private schools alike: “The ADA's standard of accessible design incorporates seven principles: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort and size and space for approach and use into the design of a space or facility”(ADA, p.1).

Each of these components are laid out in detail to set a uniform standard for all schools and universities. 

Among the details presented is the requirement that at least five percent of classroom tables must be wheelchair-accessible, “For theater-style seating, the seats must be 21 inches wide or

larger and fold-down tablet arms should be provided. Aisles should be present in the lecture hall

to provide connection between the teacher and students”(ADA, p. 1). Additionally, this act states

that there must be an accessible route to all sleeping rooms.

It should be recognized that these modifications are a big ask of any institution, let alone

one which exists in one of the poorest counties in Indiana. The act itself states that it “does not

require that school districts make building modifications that would create an undue financial

burden on the school district or alter programs in a way that would change the fundamental

nature of the program to accommodate disabilities”(ADA, p. 3).

However, Taylor University is also not powerless, and has a substantial amount of donor support and incoming students. Finances are simply a matter of prioritization and asking the difficult but important questions of where money has been allocated thus far.

It appears that even though the University means well, and there are certainly many

students with good intentions, those with physical and mental impairments are still suffering.

This begs the question, is it enough to mean well by these students? Is it enough to claim love

but allocate resources in every other area?

For Christ followers looking to the example of Jesus, the love and sacrifice of the Savior provides a clear message. Jesus not only said He would love us, but He did everything in His almighty power to do so. He not only made promises, but saw them through. He didn’t see His creation groaning in pain and suffering only to send a “Get well soon” card. He gave everything for our gain.

On this miniscule, earthly level, can’t we do the same to love our brothers and sisters

around us?

 

Kayleigh Khavari is a junior Politics & Public Service major.